Jerusalem and Berlin (Extract)

Extract of an article in Issue 26, April 14, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. In mid-March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who came to office in November 2005, paid a highly-visible second official visit to Israel, in which she conducted joint cabinet sessions and discussed increasing security cooperation and initiation of several joint development and aid projects. Merkel also issued statements regarding Germany's responsibility to, and special relationship with, the State of Israel and reiterated Germany's increasingly hard-line approach towards Iranian nuclear development. According to Shimon Stein, Israel's Ambassador to Germany from December 2000 through September 2007, Merkel is continuing policies set by Germany's previous governments. A career diplomat currently on leave from the Foreign Ministry, Stein, 60, says that as the Holocaust recedes into history, Israel and Germany must develop a new relationship. The Jerusalem Report: Following Chancellor Angela Merkel's second visit to Israel since she assumed office, how would you define Israeli-German relationships? Ambassador Shimon Stein: Relationships with the previous German government, headed by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Yoske Fischer, were also excellent, practical and down to earth, including important events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relationships; close scientific collaborations, totalling some 25 million euros; establishment of a forum dedicated to examining the future of German-Israel relations, with a budget of some 24 million euros; and the agreement to supply Israel with Dolphin submarines [which provide Israel with second-strike nuclear capacity.] Has Merkel's administration changed the relationship in any way? On the declarative and emotional level, Merkel has certainly ehanced the relationship. Merkel is different than her predecessors - she has a different biography which has influenced her attitude toward the Holocaust. How was her visit to Israel received in Germany? It was not popular, according to the polls, which revealed that a clear majority of the German public does not think that Germany should feel any responsibility towards Israel. As time goes by; as the generations pass on and the victims and the murderers die out; as the Holocaust becomes universalized in world opinion; and with the changes that have taken place in Germany, the pillar of the Holocaust will not be enough to sustain the relationship between the two countries. What should the relationship be based on? In addition to the pillar of the Holocaust, Israel and Germany will have to identify common interests, many of which stem from both the negative and positive aspects of globalization. The negative aspects include the new world threats of terror and weapons of mass destruction, issues that both Germany and Israel must deal with as interdependent members of a western community of values. On the positive side, globalization has created unlimited opportunities for technological and innovational cooperation. Extract of an article in Issue 26, April 14, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.